Why Is It So Hard For Some Partners To Be Emotionally Open? 9 Experts Weigh In

Author Name: Bibi Deitz
Publish Date: Aug 11
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It can be really challenging to accept a partner when they refuse or shy away from being emotionally vulnerable. But why do some people have difficulty expressing emotions? If we can understand why this is so, does it make it easier to let a partner who clams up way too easily feel less burden to open up?

I spoke with nine relationship experts about this topic, and what I found is striking: Though generally when I pose the same question to multiple experts, I get a myriad of different takes and responses, almost all of the people with whom I spoke could agree on one thing: If you’re encountering someone who has a really hard time letting you know where they are emotionally, they are probably holding onto old stuff from their past. This might mean past relationships or even go as far back as childhood, but regardless of the case, it is not about you.

So what is it about? Read on to learn why it’s such a big deal for some of us to really let go, loosen up and open their hearts — and what you should do if this describes your partner, and how to cope in your relationship in the meantime.

1. Old Habits Die Hard

“Often, couples who have experienced years of emotional abuse — judgement, ridicule, humiliation, and condemnation — from previous love interests find it difficult to open up and be transparent with their current partner,” author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. “Thus, they are often afraid to share their most intimate thoughts and feelings with their mate.” Those old feelings can crop up, and everything comes flooding back to haunt them.

“It is simply a coping mechanism that establishes borders and boundaries that make it nearly impossible for their partner to penetrate,” she says. Don’t take it personally — and be patient.

2. Fear Of Being Vulnerable

“The difficult part of being emotionally open comes from the lack of desire to be vulnerable,” Texas-based psychotherapist Richard E. Toney tells Bustle. “When a person is open and there is not trust built, one may feel as if he or she could possibly fall prey to scrutiny in the future when an argument occurs.” Without trust, it can feel like a death sentence to attempt real emotional openness. “This is due to issues with trust from past relationships,” Toney says. “People have a tendency to bring old baggage into new relationships.”

Though it would be nice in some ways if a partner could enter a new relationship with a clean slate, that would come with its own set of problems. “Those who are afraid to be emotionally open have doubts that the person who they are in a relationship with will actually take care of their heart,” he says. You have to show your partner that you’ll guard their heart fiercely (and gently), and the only way you can really do that is by doing it slowly, over the course of many months.

3. Insecurity Runs Deep

“Emotional unavailability is one of the leading causes of a demise of any relationships,” Darren Pierre, educator, speaker and author of The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear, and Resistance, tells Bustle. “Often this emotionally closed-off space is based in insecurity, and that insecurity is often rooted in childhood wounds.” Once again, this can all be traced back to the past.

“Childhood is where we learn our worth, childhood is where we learn the safety — or harm — that arises from being vulnerable, and childhood is where we learned to express or suppress love,” Pierre says. “If you want to find a partner who is emotionally open, begin to look for those people who aren’t afraid to engage in introspection, who practice resilience, and demonstrate a value in the art of self-care.” If you meet someone who loves talking about their thoughts and taking long bubble baths, you may be on the right track.

4. No Practice

“From the couples I’ve worked with in my private practice, the number-one reason that it is hard for some partners to be emotionally open is usually associated with past interpersonal traumas, which can include a bad breakup, growing up in an emotionally abusive household, or the absence of a parent in their lives while growing up,” author, life strategist and speaker Carey Yazeed tells Bustle. “The second reason why some partners have a hard time emotionally opening up is because they simply don’t know how.”

Whether clamming up is a sign of being punished in the past for opening up or just plain feeling clueless about how best to proceed, this silence is real either way. For your partner, it’s possible that “expressing emotions in their household while growing up was something that just didn’t happen,” Yazeed says. If this is the case, warm them up to it carefully by talking about yourself and slowly trying to engage them.

5. A Past Partner Is Still Lurking

“It’s hard for some partners to be emotionally open for a variety of reasons,” Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified life and love coach and author of A Conversation Piece, tells Bustle. “Some are still harboring painful feelings from relationships past.” As other experts have pointed out, this scenario sets up a situation rife with anxiety on your partner’s part. “They can’t trust the new partner because of the last partner,” she says.

“In other cases, some people aren’t sure what their partner will do with the emotions they reveal,” Cunningham-Sumter says. “They wonder if they may be judged and sometimes fear that their partner will use what they know about them to actually hurt them.” Though they may be totally open to letting you know how they feel, they might be afraid of what might happen if they do. “No one wants their emotions trampled on, so many choose not to be as open,” she says. “Sometimes it’s easier, and it definitely feels safer for some.” But this, of course, doesn’t feel great for the person on the receiving end. It can happen on both sides, though, she reminds: “Some couples just aren’t ready to go all-in with their heart or their emotions.”

6. Some Families Discourage Emotion

“Some families weren’t safe to open up in,” dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. “Your partner may have been shamed when they showed strong feelings, so they learned not to show them and maybe even not to feel them.” As a child and young adult, your partner might have been taught that being emotionally vulnerable is a terrible idea, and they may have internalized that.

“Your partner may have been neglected or abused, and learned that it wasn’t safe to love because love hurts,” Weisman says. “Your partner may have grown up in a household where no one shared their feelings. They may have never learned how to be emotionally intimate with someone.” Regardless of the case, the last thing they need is judgment. If your partner is gun-shy about expressing emotions, work together with lots of care and love to uncover some of their real feelings — and, once again, go slow.

7. Deep Feelings Weren’t Discussed In The Past

“For those who struggle to open up emotionally, there are a potential causes for this,” licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg tells Bustle. “The first is that they may have opened up in the past and been hurt as a result — maybe an ex used their vulnerability against them or shamed them for it.” As many experts have pointed out, it can take just one awful experience with a past partner to really shut down someone’s emotional availability.

“Another cause for difficulty opening up can be their family history,” she says. “If during childhood they were ignored, shamed, or dismissed when expressing their feelings, then it stands to reason that opening up is unnecessary or even potentially dangerous.” Though they may want to open up to you, it may feel too scary or painful to do so. “Similarly, someone may have come from a very happy and supportive family, but if deep feelings were not talked about, or their parents never opened up emotionally, so they may just not have the language or awareness of how to go deeper and talk openly on that level.” If this is the case, try leading by example and see what comes — you might both be surprised at the outcome.

8. Fear Of Uncovering Old Emotional Trauma

“If you or your partner find it hard to be emotionally open with each other, consider that when you open your heart, any emotional pain that’s not been expressed previously comes forward,” spiritual empath Tracee Dunblazier tells Bustle.”It’s a natural part of the grief process.”

If your partner is typically someone who prefers to keep it all to themselves, they may be avoiding this emotional pain. “Being honest and open about it can not only help you heal, but bring you and your partner closer,” Dunblazier says. A long talk might remind them it’s safe — and healthy — to let it all out.

9. Hurt And Confusion From The Past Can Linger

“Past relationships could have resulted in hurt and confusion,” online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. “This could leave that fear that a future partner could, once again, hurt them.” As most other experts have pointed out, relationships are very much informed by the ones that have come before, and “it is important to look at every new relationship as that — a clean slate, a new opportunity to connect with a new, and, possibly, forever love,” she says.

But that doesn’t make it easy. “It’s OK to take a new relationship slowly in order to work up to opening up emotionally,” Covic says. “If the relationship is one that isn’t meant to be, then the partners won’t be able to open up. If the pairing is truly meant to last, then that emotional comfort will come naturally and won’t be planned in advance.”

In a perfect world, this is true. But if it doesn’t come naturally, you can also work together to help your partner feel comfortable enough to let you in — gently.

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A very unconventional emerging funeral trend

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Publish Date: April 29, 2016
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USA – Why some families choose to have their loved one posed as if they are alive at the funeral.

Funerals are designed to help people come to terms with death. Seeing a loved one in an open casket, wearing their “Sunday’s best,” and the organ playing in the background all helps to normalize the grieving process by allowing family and friends to accept mortality. Now, several morticians across the country, from Louisiana to Puerto Rico, have put their unique flair on funerals by offering extreme embalming, making it easier — and maybe even fun — to commemorate the dead.

The unconventional funeral trend first made headlines in 2008 when the body of a 24-year-old murder victim, Angel Luis Pantojas, was tethered against the wall in his family living room in Puerto Rico. His funeral, known as “muerto parao,” or or dead man standing, was an internet sensation and soon set the tone for future “freaky” funerals. The idea came from Pantojas himself after attending his father’s funeral at age 6, according to the New York Times. He told his relatives that he wanted to be viewed on his feet.

Shortly after, another murder victim was propped on a motorcycle, and in March, 26-year-old Fernando de Jesus Diaz Beato, who was tragically shot and killed, was seated on a chair — with his eyes open — a funeral first.

Damaris Marin, owner of Marin Funeral Home with locations in San Juan and Rio Piedras, explains families of the deceased want to see their loved one as they were during their life.

“We have seen that the families wish to see the dead men just as they were when they were alive,” said Marin, NY Post reported. “I think that this time was the most impressive reaction to any of the work we have done,” she said, referring to Beato’s embalming.

This process generally takes two days, and it’s not easy work, according to Marin. “The secret is in the embalming,” but she has not revealed the exact details.

Typically, in normal embalming, the body is washed in a disinfectant solution, and the limbs are massaged and morphed to relieve stiffness of the joints and the limbs, according to the Funerals Consumers Alliance. Approximately 16 ounces of fluid combined with two gallons of water is a good dilution. Facial hair is shaved off, unless the deceased wore facial hair.

Next, the surgical embalming or cosmetic processes begin with the removal of bodily fluids using formaldehyde-based chemical solutions. The body is then prepared for viewing by styling the hair, applying makeup, and setting the facial features. Embalming does not provide any public health benefit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It’s only mandatory for persons who had died of communicable diseases, who were to be transported by airline or other common carrier, or who were to be buried more than 24 hours after death.

One of the first pioneers of extreme embalming was Bolshevik revolutionary and leader Vladimir Lenin. In 1924, he died of a stroke and heart attack, and was then embalmed with an untested chemical process to preserve a life-like appearance. Today, he is entombed in a granite and marble mausoleum in Red Square where his body is maintained at 61 degrees, with the humidity between 80 and 90 percent in a sealed glass sarcophagus.

The trend is not limited to Puerto Rico or Russia; Louisiana has also seen its fair share of funerals with flair. In 2014, a New Orleans woman’s funeral went viral for extreme embalming. Miriam Burbank, 53, was posed at a table with a glass of Busch beer, a menthol cigarette, and a disco ball overhead. She was also sporting a New Orleans Saints-themed manicure.

“When I walked in, I felt like I was in her house and I didn’t hurt so much. Because it’s more of her, and it’s like she’s not dead. It’s not like a funeral,” said Burbank’s sister Sherline, ABC News 13 reported. “It’s like she’s just in the room with us.”

Eddie Journey, a resident psychotherapist at Goodpoint Counseling & Consulting Services in Indianapolis, Ind., believes extreme embalming can be seen as a ritual wherein people are attempting to honor a loved one’s memories in ways that are more consistent with how he or she lived.

“If she never wore dresses and makeup in life, why would someone consider presenting her this way in death?” he told Medical Daily.

Exotic funerals are simply rituals that play a role in helping families of the deceased cope with death. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General examined the powerful effect grieving rituals have on helping people deal with a chaotic impact of loss. In the research, ritual was defined as a symbolic activity that is performed before, during, or after a meaningful event to achieve a desired outcome, such as alleviating grief. The authors suggest that in the case of losing a loved one, rituals, whether highly formal or informal, help people relieve negative feelings of loss.

Tracee Dunblazier, a spiritual empath and certified grief counselor based in Los Angeles, believes grieving the loss of a person and their physical being is about changing your relationship with them from the physical to the spiritual.

“Extreme embalming is a way of honoring that transition and celebrating their life,” she told Medical Daily.

According to Dunblazier, it can also be a way of creating an opportunity to say what you want to say while the person was living, or have one last illusion of life before the illusion of death takes over.

The unconventional ritual can also be plagued with cons. While it can act as a grief coping mechanism, Dr. Claudia Luiz, a psychotherapist based in Massachusetts, suggests it can represent a denial of grief, and numbness to the ceremoniousness of both life and death.

Luiz’s rule of thumb is to use your own emotions as a gauge when it comes to understanding what a particular embalming symbolically reflects.

“Your emotions can gauge whether the embalming is done in the spirit of ceremony, love and spiritual renewal, or whether there is mockery, irreverence and hostility at base,” she told Medical Daily.

Others, like Jorge Lugo Ramirez, president of the Puerto Rico Funeral home Association, sees this growing trend as an act of irreverence.

In an interview with the Washington Post, he said: “I see it as a challenge to the authorities: ‘You killed me, but you didn’t knock me down.’”

He added: “These kinds of people are surrounded by easy money and guns. We can’t be promoting that.”

Whether the deceased were criminals or martyrs, the decision on how to honor a loved one is at the family’s discretion.

Curated from Freaky Funerals: The Psychology Behind Out-Of-The-Ordinary Body Embalming

9 Things You Can Do To Reduce Relationship Stress

Author Name: Bibi Deitz
Publish Date: Aug 3
Website Link:

Relationships can be really, really anxiety-provoking. So, naturally, I spoke with nine experts about things you can do to reduce relationship stress, because there’s no need to fret about the partnership that should be bringing you joy and nice, warm feelings of support and love. Unfortunately, just because your relationship should bring you such feelings doesn’t mean that it will, and it’s quite common to feel stressed out, worried, anxious, or otherwise off-balance when spending time with your partner. Or when thinking about your partner. Or when obsessing about your partner. Or, you know, when you just don’t know what’s going to ultimately happen with your partner so you project and what-if and wonder, instead of just relaxing into the moment.

Though the best things to do to feel calmer about your relationship vary, it seems as though most experts agree that it’s smart to take the focus off your partner (and your relationship), and instead take a long, hard look at yourself. Why are you worried? What does this bring up from your past? What can you work on within yourself first, before tackling any larger issues within your partnership? While you ask yourself these questions, try keeping these nine things in mind as you walk through your relationship — with a little less stress, I hope.

1. Listen

“As always, communication is preferred; while it seems juvenile, many couples experience unnecessary stress due to a lack of communication,” author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. “Communicating with your mate can simply mean to just listen. Be attentive, by demonstrating that you have heard what they’ve said by doing something to signal to them that you have heard them. If something is bothering them, do something to correct that irritation in their lives.” Just by sitting with your partner and opening your ears, you’re demonstrating the willingness to hear what they need to say.

It can be simple, but the payoff is great. Whether it’s a five-minute foot massage after they tell you they’ve had a difficult day or running them a bath after dinner, small gestures will remind your partner that you’re a team — and you’re on the same side.

2. Make Bids For Connection

“Acts of turning towards your partner — what researcher John Gottman calls ‘bids for connection’ — are a surefire and consistent way to reduce stress in a relationship,” licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg tells Bustle.” This means taking bids for connection for what they are.” In other words, take your partner’s kind words or actions at face value, and try not to over-judge every little ting that happens in your relationship.

“When your partner pays you a compliment, take it, rather than downplaying or minimizing whatever they’re complimenting, or shaming them for not noticing you sooner,” she says. “Try to see your partner’s behaviors through the lens of how they’re trying to connect with you, rather than what they’re doing wrong. Oftentimes our partner’s behaviors are rooted in trying to help, connect, or be loving, but if the act itself isn’t delivered the way we want it to be, that message gets lost,” she says. Don’t lose the message.

3. Meditate

“In the beginning, a part of your brain called the amygdala is sounding the alarm a lot,” Dawn Maslar, a.k.a. “the Love Biologist,” tells Bustle about relationships. “This can make you feel nervous and stressed, but you can do something to reduce the about of anxiety.” If you’re open to spending some quiet time alone, you might find yourself a lot calmer in your relationship— and your life.

“Researchers have discovered that meditation actually shrinks the mass of the amygdala,” she says. “With a few minutes of meditation each day, you can may turn your five-alarm fire into a quiet little chirp every now and then.”

4. Be Yourself

“An individual must learn to exhibit ‘self’ within a relationship,” Texas-based psychotherapist Richard E. Toney tells Bustle. “When a person is being his or herself within the relationship, there is less stress due not worrying about the hassle of attempting to satisfy their partner with an image they will not be able to maintain.” If you feel stress in your relationship, just be authentic, and don’t try to be something or someone you’re not.

“This is especially true if you are already in the relationship,” he says. “You have already won them over, so just be yourself.” If you let go of fronting, you’ll be a lot happier — and calmer.

5. Focus On Your Own Life

“Put some of that love and attention back on yourself,” Darren Pierre, educator, speaker and author of The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear, and Resistance, tells Bustle. “Take inventory of your life—what are the practices that you are engaging in that are working for you, and what are those that are not? Figure out those things in your life you have control over that you are being asked to respond to, and then get about the business of working on them.”

You’ll reduce stress that has nothing to do with your relationship, which’ll make the relationship itself easier. “While the temptation is always to look to the relationship to ease stress, stress reduction starts from within.” From there, you can figure out what’s really causing undue stress — and let it go.

6. Communicate

“Stress in a relationship usually results from lack of communication,” author, life strategist and speaker Carey Yazeed tells Bustle. “The first step in reducing stress in a relationship is to start by addressing why you are feeling stressful.” Whether it’s your job, your best friend, or your partner, getting clear on the cause will help to address it.

“The second step is to work as a team to develop and implement solutions that will help to decrease or reduce the stress in the relationship,” she says. If you feel stressed that your partner is working 60-hour weeks, try to find solutions to the worry and anxiety you feel by talking about it.

7. Hit The Pause Button

“First, pause and take some time to reflect, alone,” Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified life and love coach and author of A Conversation Piece, tells Bustle. “There is power in pausing. Next, understand the source of your stress and be specific. Don’t just say it’s your partner. Name the specific behavior or action that’s causing the stress.” If you’re upset because your partner never compliments you, try exploring why that upsets you so much, and what it brings up for you.

“Determine why it is having the impact it’s having on you,” she says. “Once you have that complete understanding of the what and the why, you’ll be able to effectively communicate with your partner your concerns and possible solutions.”

8. Make The Decision To Bond

“Most relationship stress comes from outside circumstances, and often those circumstances are out of our control,” dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. “What you can do is decide that you and your partner are going to cleave together during hard times,” she says.

It’s easy to be happy when times are good, but what about when things get rocky? “It takes commitment to turn towards each other when things are stressful, but that’s what it takes to keep outside stressors from damaging your relationship,” she says. “When you turn towards each other, you recognize when the other person is stressed or sad, and you offer them your support.” In this support, you’ll find calm.

9. Be Consistent—And Kind

“Lack of communication is the biggest stressor in a relationship,” spiritual empath Tracee Dunblazier tells Bustle. “Adding consistency, honesty, and kindness to your connection habits is important.” Every day, be sure to do one super-sweet thing for your partner. “Also, responding to your lover’s bids for attention with honesty can make all the difference,” she adds.

If your partner needs more than you can give, tell them. Passive-aggressive behavior will get you nowhere, but honesty—and consistency—will get you everywhere.

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15 Gentle Pieces Of Advice For When Your Loved One Receives A Terminal Diagnosis

Author Name: Elizabeth Jenkins
Publish Date: March 25, 2015
Website Link:

When you’re the family member or friend of someone who receives a terminal diagnosis, life as you know it can change overnight. We asked people who have been through it themselves—sometimes on multiple occasions—to share their advice for navigating these difficult times.

1. Try to live as normally as possible
If you have some time with your loved one, spend it wisely. Carole Brody Fleet, author of Widows Wear Stilettos, says that when her husband was diagnosed, “our focus was on living with ALS, not dying from it. We continued family gatherings, went out to dinner, and did as much as we were able to. Even when Mike could no longer ride his horses, his friends would take him (wheelchair and all) to the stables so that he could at least enjoy them.” When Diana Ketterman was a teenager, her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and she found that simple activities were sometimes the best. “Catching lightning bugs and going fishing together seemed to make my dad happy,” she recalls.

MORE: Living Each Day With Gratitude

2. Spread the word appropriately
“Remember that this is their diagnosis and you need to respect their wishes,” says Staci Torgeson, whose mom has Stage IV lung cancer. “Some people are very private, while others want everything up on a billboard.” Julie Lavin, a mental wellness and life coach, adds that you should ask who the patient wants you to tell, how he wants you to spread the news, and what information should be included or excluded. Brody Fleet says, “Regardless of your relationship to the patient, you must always ask permission before spreading the word, particularly on social media. They may be bombarded and overwhelmed with well-wishers—all with good intentions—but it can be a lot to absorb.”

3. Ask questions
“Don’t try to be a mind reader,” says Liz O’Donnell, whose mother died of ovarian cancer and whose father is battling Alzheimer’s. “Ask your loved one how they want to live for the rest of their life. Ask them, if they seem willing to discuss it, how they want to die. Ask them what they’re worried about,” she says. “They may want help with paperwork, finances, reaching out to people, resolving past hurts, or talking to a clergy person. They may be worried about treatments or pain management.”

4. Don’t impose your opinion.
Everyone will react to their diagnosis differently, so it’s essential to respect their wishes and not foist your own feelings upon them. Laura Sobiech, who lost her son Zach to osteosarcoma, says, “Any question or statement that starts with ‘have you tried,’ ‘you should try’ or ‘you should go,’ was not helpful. Too often people wanted to make themselves feel better by giving us ‘advice’ on how to deal with Zach’s illness.” Michelle Monroe Morton, whose best friend has been battling brain cancer for four years, says, “Don’t tell them they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way. Just acknowledge what they are saying to you.”

5. Really listen
Emily Kaplowitz, who works for The Fixler Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting people faced with a life-threatening illness, stresses the importance of being an active listener. “Nod your head, make eye contact and smile,” she says. “Listening is about the other person, not about what you are going to say next.” Julie Loven, who cared for her grandfather after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, says, “Allow your loved one to talk—endlessly if they want to. Remember that these are the last conversations you will have. Focus on the inflections of their speech and the funny stories they tell. This is what you’ll want to remember.” On the other hand, says O’Donnell, remember that the patient may want to sit in silence. “Let him set the pace of the conversation,” she says.

6. Laugh often

Laugh often.( Photograph by Daly and Newton/Getty Images )

“Buy funny books. Read funny stories,” says Loven. “I took my grandfather to see the movie Dodgeball and he laughed so hard his chest shook. That’s a memory I will treasure forever.” Andrea Pauls Backman recalls one Thanksgiving when her mother, who was battling ALS, forgot her syringe for her feeding tube. “We used a clean turkey baster instead, and all had a good laugh about basting Mom for Thanksgiving.” Allen Klein, who wrote the book Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying, based on his own experience after his wife’s passing, says, “Don’t necessarily force humor on a situation, but if something funny arises, laugh at it. Often, friends and family got so serious that they dragged me down even deeper than I already was.” And Mary Lee Robinson, author of The Widow or Widower Next Door, adds, “To think that you must be somber and gloomy every minute of the journey is to deny yourself some wonderful, warm, and loving memories.”

7. Provide real support
Kaplowitz, who has lost her mother and two friends, says the key to lending a hand is to be specific. “For example, say, ‘I’m free Thursday afternoon for three hours.’ It was not helpful, however, when people put the burden on us to figure it out and coordinate.” Kelly Harvey, MS, PT, CHHC, who lost both parents to cancer, says the best help is practical: “Fill the fridge, watch the kids, clean the house, walk the dogs, and run the errands. These things are profoundly more effective than a pity party.” Brody Fleet remembers when a family at her synagogue invited her daughter over for the weekend. “It gave her a break from her sad reality and just let her be a kid—something that goes by the wayside when there’s a terminal illness in the family.”

MORE: One Doctor’s Mission To Help Terminally Ill Patients Face Their Mortality With Honesty, Dignity, And Compassion

8. Discuss logistical matters
If a loved one only has a short time left to live, do what you can to help them get their affairs in order. But if the opposite is true, don’t rush the conversation. “Don’t immediately talk about funeral arrangements if they have two years to live, but don’t wait until their illness progresses so far along that they can’t be part of the decisions,” says Lavin. Harvey advises letting the patient dictate the amount of future planning—such as wills and estate matters—they are willing to discuss or able to tolerate: “Keep it all in a folder, with an agenda sheet in front, to allow the patient to review the documents at their comfort, if possible.” For example, Mallory Moss, NP, says knowing that her mother wanted to be cremated, rather than buried, was a relief, and advises others to encourage their loved ones to communicate their wishes.

9. Don’t encourage false hope
Brody Fleet stresses the importance of not downplaying the situation or creating false hope. “When you deny a terminal patient’s reality, you’re also denying them of the very real need to talk about what’s happening to them,” she says. Robinson, who lost her husband after a long battle with a circulatory disease, says you have to face reality. “Pretending that death isn’t coming to each of us is pretty foolhardy, and only makes it harder on loved ones who survive us. I am glad we talked about it; it made my decisions that much easier to bear.”

10. Create a wish list

Create a wish list.( Photograph by Gianni Diliberto/Getty Images )

Once the patient has accepted his diagnosis, Lavin suggests offering to help him make a wish list. “Tell them, ‘When and if you are ready, I’d love to help you come up with a list of things you’d like to do before you go. Who would you like to be with you when you do them?” Jan Berlin, PhD, who lost his wife to brain cancer and founded Heart to Heart, a caregiver support program at the Tower Cancer Research Foundation in Beverly Hills, learned that “living life to its fullest” means something different for everyone. “It may mean creating lots of social interaction, or deep conversations with only one or two close friends, or immersion in art, or time in nature,” he says.

11. Divide up the responsibilities
“Every family member isn’t cut out for every job,” says Tracee Dunblazier, who has lost her mother, father, and stepfather. “In my family, I was the spiritualist who helped my mom talk about death and afterlife, one of my sisters was the medical advocate, and my other sister took care of bills and other financial arrangements.” O’Donnell suggests keeping a list of things you need help with. “Then the next time someone asks how they can help, give them a task from the list.” Khrystal Davis, whose son Hunter is battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, recommends enlisting the help of others to spread the word. She posts updates on a Facebook page she created, but says someone at your kids’ school or your office can get the message out to their respective communities. “You don’t want to spend your valuable time telling people the same thing over and over,” she says. Wendy Marantz Levine, who lost her sister to a degenerative neuromuscular disease, says, “When people expect calls back or constant updates, it can be overwhelming. You need to focus on the person who is sick and their immediate family, not be taking care of everyone else,” she says.

12. Touch them if they’re open to it

Touch them if they're open to it.( Photograph by Portra Images/Getty Images )

“Often people don’t want to touch those who look ill, but patients crave human contact,” says VJ Sleight, who has battled cancer twice herself and is a hospice volunteer. She advises visitors to ask the patient if they can hold his hand or lightly rub his back. Cathy Jones also found that wetting her mother’s dry lips and tongue, stroking her hair, and simply talking to her was worthwhile, even after her mom had become comatose. “They may not be able to see you but they may hear you, and those sensations let them know that someone who loves them is right there,” she says. Likewise, Natasha Tronstein recalls of one visit to the hospital, “I used baby wipe to give my father’s arms, legs and feet a cleansing of sorts, and massaged lotion into his limbs. He craved that touch,” she says. Harvey explains that skin-to-skin contact is incredibly healing because it “releases hormones and regulates the patient’s heart rate.”

13. Help them maintain their dignity
Berlin says, “Cancer can change the body, but the person is still there. Don’t make a big deal about what bodily functions may change as the illness progresses.” After Marantz Levine’s sister Melissa passed away, she co-founded Beauty Bus, a foundation that brings beauty treatments to ill patients. “Melissa said that getting beauty treatments while she was sick made her feel human again.” And Jones stresses the importance of treating the patient the same as before her sickness. “Don’t change their clothes, diapers or bedding with lots of people around. It’s degrading to act as though their privacy and dignity no longer matter.” She also adds that if the person is comatose in the final days, don’t have conversations about them as if they are not there. “Leave the room to have those talks,” she says. “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if they were coherent and part of the conversation.”

14. Don’t stay away
“I wish people hadn’t stayed away or avoided calling because they thought they were intruding,” says Tronstein, who lost her father to lung cancer just six weeks after he was diagnosed. “It’s so important to have support from all angles at times like these,” she says. Pauls Backman says, “Initially, the outpouring of support was wonderful, but as my mom’s disease progressed and got very ugly, some people got uncomfortable. Fewer and fewer people visited or called. I wish more had taken the time to write her, since she couldn’t communicate verbally.” Klein recalls, “There was a lot of support for me immediately after my wife died. But several months down the road is when the reality of the loss really settled in and I needed people the most. But friends and family, maybe thinking I was okay, went on with their lives and stopped their regular contact.”

15. Allow yourself to grieve before you attempt to heal
“The healing process is difficult and never ends,” says Loven, “but don’t ignore your feelings. Allow yourself to grieve the loss, to cry and be angry and work through the emotions.” Brody Fleet says, “Make time for grief. If you don’t, it will come back to bite you at some point.” Jodi O’Donnell-Ames, who lost her husband to ALS when he was 30, says, “Everyone heals at different times and in different ways. Be gentle with yourself and know that there is no ‘best’ way.”

Author Name

I Joined a Prayer Group, Even Though I’m Not Religious

Author Name: Johanna Ferreira Vivala Squad
Publish Date: May 11, 2016
Website Link:

I grew up in a conservative Christian home but don’t consider myself religious at all. While there are certain aspects of the Christian faith that I love and still embrace, I wouldn’t call myself a practicing Christian by any means — sorry Mom and Dad! I don’t go to church (though I do visit on occasion), I don’t read the Bible, and I don’t agree with a lot of things in the religion. But I haven’t stopped praying.

I definitely consider myself to be spiritual. I believe in God and being connected to a higher power. I believe that there’s so much more to this world than what is easily seen. I believe in miracles, and I absolutely believe in entering a higher state of consciousness and that’s where prayer comes in for me. But it wasn’t until joining a prayer group that I really started understanding the true power and impact of prayer.

Related From Vivala: What It’s Like to Be a Pastor’s Kid

“Religion is the ritual we use to cultivate our relationship to the creator,” says Tracee Dunblazier, a spiritual empath, shaman, educator, speaker, and author of the Demon Slayer’s Handbook. “We are all spiritual, but the idea of spirituality implies an awareness of the other energetic dimension that we as humans can experience.”

It all started sometime last spring. I formed a little crew with two wonderful women I was becoming very close with. It began as a text thread — where we literally checked in every day, all day — to becoming practically best friends. All three of us were going through very similar life changes at the same time. From exciting career shifts to apartment moves to our fair share of boy problems. I believe these ladies came into my life for a reason: so that we not only were able to support each other, but to also build each other up spiritually.

Related From Vivala: Being the Only Liberal in My Conservative Latino Family

When I mentioned to them that I was big on prayer, I was surprised to hear they were too because none of them were religious either. When we discovered that we all believed in the power of prayer, we saw it as another great opportunity to support each other and thus formed a prayer group. And it was a lot simpler than you’d imagine.

We weren’t sitting on the floor with our legs crossed, holding hands, and praying out loud. No, it was a lot more practical than that. Plus, who has that kind of time? We certainly don’t.

Instead, every few weeks (or whenever needed) we would send each other a list through our text thread of the things we wanted prayer for. It could be anything from my tummy troubles, to work challenges, a family member’s health, or healing from a breakup. We committed ourselves to praying for everything on everyone’s list every day.

Related From Vivala: The Benefits of Meditating for One Month

How do I pray you ask? Most times I pray in my head, sometimes I write in my journal or type in my iPhone notes, and when my roommate isn’t home, I pray out loud. Yes, I pray out loud.

I find myself praying every morning during my work commute and then right before bed. When we first started our prayer group, I had to set up reminders on my phone, but after a few weeks it naturally became part of my daily routine. Before I knew it, I was actually looking forward to prayer time.

Prayer was no longer about going to God in times of desperation. Instead, it allowed me to accept the things in life that I can’t control and trust that despite whatever I was going through, that God and the universe would get me through it.

“The act of prayer creates a conversation between you, yourself, and the creator,” says Dunblazier. “It allows you to cultivate a deeper awareness: of your desires, your limitations, and your possibilities. The more you know, the more power you have to effect a change.”

As someone who is a natural worrier and occasionally anxious, praying gives me the calmness, the confidence, and the peace to just live my life. It’s given me more perspective and has allowed me to be grateful for the little things in life that I often take for granted. Most of my prayers usually start off with a list of things I am grateful for: my health, job, or loved ones. You’d be surprised how much of an impact this alone has.

Studies have shown that gratitude does in fact reduce feelings of depression, lessens anxiety, improves sleep, and improves overall cardiac health.

Oh, and if you’re wondering if any of our prayers have gone unanswered, the answer is no. Every single thing on my list and two friend’s lists have been answered.

Don’t get me wrong, praying is not like wishing to a genie. Things don’t always turn out the way that we want, but they do turn out the way they were meant to and forms us into stronger, better, and more appreciative human beings. My world could be collapsing, but in moments of prayer everything always feels all right and there’s a deep sense that everything will be all right, no matter what happens.

“The most important impact is that when you understand that you are not alone in this process of life, you open to the many people, information, and options that you may not have been privy to previously,” says Dunblazier. Amen to that!

Author Name

Johanna Ferreira Vivala Squad

The Conscious Shift: Looking at Negativity, Positively

Author Name: Tracee Dunblazier
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
Website Link:

Positive negativity? Tracee Dunblazier shares insight from her new book on how a conscious shift in how we consider “negativity” can change everything.

The following is an excerpt from Tracee’s latest book, Master Your Inner World: Embrace Your Power with Joy (The Demon Slayer’s Handbook Series 1)

“Negative thoughts have a positive message.

The slayer’s path is to think and feel—always—but also to cultivate the ability to think and feel with honesty, mastery, and flow. Sometimes, when we don’t like what we think and feel, we naturally stop the flow so we may better and more clearly recognize what we are thinking and feeling.

Does it make you mad that sometimes your thoughts are really negative? Most of us have spent a good part of our lives and energy feeling angry, sad, and ashamed of these thoughts and their role in our lives. Little time is spent on acknowledging their nature, function, and purpose.

Demons are dense in nature and can connect to all of our lower vibrational emotions such as anger, grief, sadness, greed, lust, guilt, disappointment, or apathy, to name a few. Although we consider these emotions to be negative, it is the very nature of that negativity that allows for the presence of their positive message in our physical world. They are potent enough to penetrate the physical world we live in and are the anchors connecting all other creative energy here. Essentially, all of our negative thoughts hold great power for each and every one of us in the true message that they bring.

Negative thoughts are arrows that have a very important function in our world; they are as incredibly transformative to us as a chisel is to stone. They have an equal and opposite value that is positive. Every thought has a negative or positive vantage, and that means every negative thought has a positive meaning. While a demon’s purpose is to create chaos and destruction, chaos in and of itself is not bad; in fact, chaos is a very neces­sary part of the natural cycle of all things and a universal truth.’


‘For a couple of years, I went through some deep transformations in my relationships; there were quite a few people in my daily physical life who were actually in conflict with me. (Well, more accurately, they were in conflict with themselves.) In objective truth, they weren’t my friends; they were acquaintances or associates with whom I had many things in common. Calling our relationships “friendships” was my subjective perspective. With many of them, it was all about what they needed from me, or my availability to them, or even what I had been to them in the past; but these relationships didn’t really include who I am as an individual and what I needed today.

During this time I was covered in a shroud of bitterness about my relationships. Always frustrated and defeated, my mantra was, I don’t really have any friends…well, just you. You’re my one friend. I used to say this a lot. Every time, it gave me a chuckle; somehow it felt soothing for me to say. The fact was it always seemed I had quite a few friends and certainly had more of a social life than I could handle.

As I became aware of this mantra, I began to question what it reflected. I prayed on it every night: “God, why do I feel this way?” 

As it turned out, for me this was the end of a very long cycle of living a particular energy pattern. Being in the helping business had surrounded me with people who hadn’t yet fully accepted themselves, and I found out I hadn’t really been truly myself in any relationship for quite some time—if ever. I found that I didn’t always respond with my voice; I responded with the helping voice of what they needed…’


The Slayer’s Path: To Think and Feel

‘Take the emotion of bitterness, for example. Bitterness exists in place of heartfelt communication. When the throat (fifth) chakra is out of balance, the heart doesn’t get enough of the flow it needs for balance. My bitterness about my relationships existed because I had been in a thera­peutic (spiritual) outlook (lens) regarding almost every person that I knew, professionally (as an empath) or personally (being an empath).

Over time I didn’t make the adjustments I needed in myself, or communicate my needs to the people who were most important to me. In fact, I’d not really made any distinction at all. My lens in all my relationships had been from the place of compassion, a spiritual vantage (heart, third-eye, and crown chakras), wherein the truth is we are all equal and have immense value. My truth, for many years, was that my needs were fulfilled just by helping, that helping others helped me. When that dynamic changed, when I realized that helping others didn’t necessarily always help me, I didn’t make the necessary adjustments to solidify the new dynamic.

For men and women to meet freely as mature and integrated people, they each have to live in unison with their inner opposite sex, for woman can only touch the essential being of a man if she has integrated her inner man, and a man will only reach the true being of a woman if he has integrated his inner woman.

—Marie-Lu Lorler, Shamanic Healing within the Medicine Wheel

A slayer must learn to become all things to themselves, rendering them invincible. When we believe that we are not whole without the presence of others, we become vulnerable to the pursuit of those needs that we cannot meet by ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously, we seek to fulfill our needs in the world outside of us. When we do that, we diminish our own sense of power, self-trust, and faith, which are the three most important characteristics of a slayer. As you begin to become all things to yourself, you will be able to love completely and find love in every circumstance.”


5 Easy Ways to Be Positive About Negativity

I attended a healing group one time with a man I was dating, everyone was taking turns sharing their week when a woman out of turn starts screaming and crying.  I turned to her and asked what was happening and she continued while pointing at another woman across the room. I took a deep breath encouraging her to calm down and asked her if she could wait until it was her turn. She quieted. Just as soon as the next person started, she began this time to cry and hyper ventilate holding her throat. My date turned to her and said, in a solid, firm yet calm voice, “Hey, are you okay? Is this a 911 situation? Because I will call them for you.” She looked at him and became silent and the tears stopped, as if surprised that someone was concerned–– then shared when it was her turn.

I was quite impressed with my date. He didn’t diminish her in any way, he showed concern, but went directly to the core of “Are you safe?” and kept to the parameters of the group which were: everyone gets to speak and deserves to speak uninterrupted.

You see, oftentimes the folks whom seem addicted to drama or a negative perspective are just having a completely different experience than others in the situation. No less important or valuable, but definitely different. This is very common in a relationship, especially a new one so I’d like to shed a little light on it.

For starters, I’d like to relieve you of the term drama or the idea of being too negative when it comes to inter-relationship dynamics. It quickly diminishes the concern at hand and when you seek to lessen the impact of something for which you do not have all of the information, it disables you from getting that information accurately. Instead of drama or negativity, let’s use the word PAIN. Any sort of drama a person expresses is sourced from some level of pain: past or present. People like to resort to these terms because it’s common in relationships to project pain onto a partner when they are not the cause.

Actually, you can take that as a compliment. Seriously, if someone is projecting their pain onto your relationship with them, they are doing it for one of two reasons. First, is that they feel safe with you. Often people who have lived through tumultuous experiences or abuse of some sort have difficulty expressing it unless and until they feel safe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, “Hey, it’s okay that they treat you like a jerk…they feel safe.”

But, what I am saying is their experience of safety and trust in you allows for them to dig a little deeper into the landmine wounds of their soul, consciously or unconsciously. Which in the land of human transformation is a glorious momentous occasion and opportunity for healing.

The second reason is a little different. It relates to the first reason in that when people first come together, they meet spirit to spirit. For many couples this spiritual introduction is unconscious and it is the presence of reaction and the illusion of drama that let you know there is a deeper meeting of the spirit. I call it the 50/50.

The 50/50 Rule

lesbian couple, lgbt, gay, love, holding hands, women, intimacy, partners“The operating rule of thumb as the burgeoning independence grows inside of you, and ultimately in your relationships, is called the 50/50 Rule. It’s the understanding that everything that you encounter on every level—from thoughts, feelings, experiences, and events—is somehow connected to you, and you contribute half of their purpose. The idea is that you need the way things are happening in your life at any given time, as do the people with whom you participate.

The intensity with which you speak to someone is a direct result of their density and vice versa.”

—Heal Your Soul History: Activate the True Power of Your Shadow, book 2 of The Demon Slayer’s Handbook Series (2017); Tracee Dunblazier

Everyone has an unconscious lock and key. It is the part of their spirit that expresses itself through what it attracts or provokes in another. One person energetically provokes another to express themselves in a particular way.

For example: you desire to be treated with respect but you deeply fear one’s hostility. Or, you deeply dislike your partner to touch your forehead…yet they keep doing it over and over. Or, you find cursing abhorable, yet no matter how many times you say it, your partner talks like a sailor. (No disrespect, I know all sailors don’t curse.) These are the subtle little ways we gnaw at the spiritual fibers of our relationship…they cause the negativity (pronounce the pain) because they appear to be meaningless irritations and idiosyncrasies that occur over and over in our relationships as petty discomfort and conflicts.

What we may not be taking into consideration is the unspoken information that is being triggered. A person who has experienced abuse in their lifetime or any form of racism or bigotry may be triggered by any appearance of disrespect. The person who doesn’t like their forehead touched: maybe had a concussion from falling forehead first, out of a tree. A person who doesn’t like cursing may be an ultra-sensitive and feel the impact of the harsh language viscerally or maybe they had an alcoholic parent that cursed at them all the time. No matter how you slice it, unprocessed pain from any time in our conscious or spiritual life remains intact and finds ways of being brought to the surface for healing.

So, if you find yourself in a place in your relationship or with a specific partner who triggers you continually, consider these things.

  1. Consider that the discord in your relationship is not caused by your partner or a product of the relationship at all.
  2. Ask yourself what the feeling is, that is provoked when you feel triggered by your partner?
  3. Take some time away from your partner to reflect on those feelings and get to the origin of them.
  4. Let your partner know clearly that you understand that they are not the cause of your pain or discomfort but what they are doing is making the wound you carry obvious to you.
  5. Make an agreement with yourself and the specific emotional wound in question that you are ready to receive healing on all levels.

In our culture, we love drama. We support it in many ways daily. So if you find yourself with a little extra, know this: The more quickly you embrace it and get to the core of its message to you, the more peace you will have for yourself and in your relationship.


Free Download TN (1)The first installment of Tracee’s The Demon Slayer’s Handbook Series, Master Your Inner World- Embrace Your Power with Joy was published in May of this year. She is offering a free book download any time between June 9th-17th on any Amazon, Nook, or Kobo site.

Book description:

Are you haunted? Demons know about you. You should know about them.

Every day we are exposed to negative influences that impact us on all levels. Discover what they are and how to wield your power to transform or repel them

This book will demystify and unravel confusion around complete self-acceptance and the healing of your inner world, and ultimately your outer world. Gain a brave new perspective of the multiple dimensions of energy that can influence you and understand the profound magnitude of your power in any situation.

The choices you make change your relationships and dictate how other worldly beings and the dimensions they live in can affect you. By understanding what they are and where they come from, you give wisdom to their purpose.

Respecting all beings gives you an advantage in your physical world. This book is a game changer for anyone who suffers.

Fight the devil and win, one demon at a time:

Learn the spiritual process of what it means to be a Slayer.
Develop your psychic and spiritual awareness through creating a sacred space at home.
Discover what a demon and other spiritual entities truly are in all paradigms.
Know the spiritual purpose of anger and grief and learn how to master strong emotions.
Understand how your personality relates to your relationships.
Learn what it means to use telepathy to protect yourself.
Receive a new framework for healing, from the Soul to the body.

Ready for conscious, like-minded individuals you really want to meet?

Register with MeetMindful for free today—the fastest growing dating site for conscious singles.

About the Author:

Tracee Dunblazier Tracee Dunblazier

Tracee Dunblazier, GC-C, CCDC, spiritual empath, shaman, educator, author and speaker is based in Los Angeles, California. Tracee specializes in grief counseling, energy dynamics, Shamanic healing, past life and soul recovery, transition strategy, addiction transformation, and space clearings. In 2015, Tracee founded GoTracee Publishing LLC and to publish a new hybrid of self-help, memoir, and spiritual book to access a wider audience of spiritual seekers. As a multi-sensitive, Tracee blends information that she receives intuitively with different modalities to create a unique healing plan for every client. Every session is focused on freeing the client from their presenting issue to release, empower, and heal – no matter what the condition. Tracee’s compassionate, humorous, down-to-earth style supports and empowers clients as tender topics are addressed during the session. An accomplished author, Tracee has written two books on the topic of personal soul excavation and deep healing from soul to body. Book one: The Demon Slayer’s handbook: A Practical Guide to Mastering Your Inner World addresses inner mental, emotional, and spiritual mastery through self-awareness and spirit guide communication. Book two: The Demon Slayer’s handbook: A Practical Guide to Self- Healing and Unconditional Love empowers cultural awareness and understanding through looking at the concept of past lives and soul imprints. Tracee’s published articles cover many subjects related to spirituality and relationships while her blog breaks down current events and daily energy dynamics that everyone experiences. Tracee’s been a guest on many prominent television and radio programs informing others about spirituality and sacred ritual practices. Tracee teaches workshops, webinars, and offers two online courses on the As well as speaking engagements touching on subjects like grief, death & dying, unconditional love, self- acceptance, and healing.

The Science of Laughter

Author Name: Caitlin Berens
Publish Date:
Website Link:

Beyond being a joyful and fun activity, laughter has some real body benefits—from our heart system to our heart center.

As I stood among strangers, something erupted. It traveled from one person to the next, and then it reached me. Before I knew it, I was overcome with it too.


It’s universal, it’s unifying, it breaks the ice, and it’s good for your health. But how? What’s really happening inside our bodies when we chuckle, giggle, tee-hee, snicker, or guffaw?

Laughter is shared throughout humanity. To laugh with someone is to know someone, to forget worries and pain, if only momentarily. We know that feeling of lightness, of relief when we laugh at an awkward or tough situation and realize, it’s actually kind of funny—and things aren’t that bad. There’s a reason comedians visit military bases and hospitals: Laughing makes us feel better.

But it’s not just in our imagination. The science is in: This blissful power of laughter is a natural part of us, outside and in.

The Laughter Within

When we laugh, we involve the whole body. Our face, our brain, our lungs, our blood vessels—even our chakras get in on the action. Our vocal chords vibrate with a ho-ho-ho, a ha-ha-ha, or a he-he-he. As we experience a heartier laugh, we exhale longer, removing “stale air” from our lungs. It’s like spring cleaning for your insides. The inhale that follows then fills the lungs with fresh air and more oxygen while our chest and facial muscles contract with glee.

“Laughter results in greater than average expulsion of the residual air in our lungs and then adds a fresh supply of oxygen that enriches our blood to nourish our heart, brain, and body tissues,” says Michael Miller, MD, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The giggles are also good for your heart. In a 2005 study on laughter in response to humor, Dr. Miller and his fellow researchers found that laughter can help dilate blood vessels and improve their function by reducing their stiffness and increasing their flexibility. Why do we want flexible arteries? Increased stiffness can lead to hardened arteries, which ups the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. “Laughter practiced as part of a healthy lifestyle may help to slow aging of our blood vessels,” says Dr. Miller, author of the book Heal Your Heart.

On top of aiding our cardiovascular system, laughter can also give our immune system a boost. “Laughter is associated with an increased production of cells (predominantly B and T cells) that help to ward off infection,” says Dr. Miller. So if you had older siblings who used to tickle you to the point where you were roaring with laughter and had to scream for them to stop, you may actually owe them a thank you. And if you ever laughed so hard you almost couldn’t stand, that’s science too: In addition to the obvious muscles seizing up, the other ones may become more relaxed or less coordinated (so there’s some truth to being “weak with laughter”).

The Healing Properties of Laughter

It should come as no surprise that laughter is good for our minds, too. Have you ever noticed you feel less stressed when you laugh? Not only does it distract us from worry, laughter also helps restrain stress hormones.

“Laughter causes regions of the brain that regulate emotions to ‘light up,’ ” says Dr. Miller. “These regions suppress the release of the stress hormone cortisol and activate the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus.” This explains why so many of your most memorable moments involve laughter.

In addition to alleviating stress and giving our memory a boost, laughter can lead to bliss. Research suggests that hearty, genuine laughter releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals that help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. That’s why laughter feels so good—euphoric, even.

“Endorphins help relieve pain when you laugh,” says Jodi J. De Luca, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at Boulder Community Hospital. Laughter helps resolve “all types of pain, not just physical pain, but emotional and psychological pain as well—which can sometimes be more damaging and devastating because we can’t see them.”

Photo by Yumi Sakugawa

Illustration by Yumi Sakugawa

In the face of unspeakable sorrow or heartbreak, we often find ourselves laughing because we are incapable of any other physical response. We laugh to reframe the hurt, to help us cope and adjust our perspective.

“The final stage of transformation and change is the ability to laugh at and gain an outside perspective, a more expanded perspective, on whatever it is you are going through,” says Tracee Dunblazier, a certified grief counselor, spiritual empath, shaman, author, and speaker. “You don’t ever unknow a trauma, but you change your relationship so dramatically to it that you become a different person in it.”

But what if you don’t feel like it? What if it wasn’t just getting stood up on a date, or having a bad day? What if we received news that hit us hard, that took away our joy?

What if we got diagnosed with cancer?

That’s where Katherine Puckett, PhD, chief of the Division of Mind-Body Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) comes in: leading laughter therapy. “As you know cancer is not a laughing matter,” she says. “But laughter does allow patients—anybody, really—to find relief from the stress and the pain and the discomfort of cancer and cancer treatment. It allows people to remember they can still enjoy life. That’s one of the most important things.”

Dr. Puckett first introduced laughter therapy to the other mind–body offerings of counseling and stress management at CTCA in 2004. “We started it in response to a request from a patient who said ‘you need some more fun around here.’ ” Since then she has received many positive responses from participants and their families. She says that patients who have experienced laughter therapy say that it provides them with a time and space where they don’t think about their diagnosis, and often revel in just “how long it’s been since they laughed.” It reconnects them to joy.

That joy is similar to the feeling we find on our yoga mats. “There’s a deep well of joy within us, and laughter yoga opens up your well of joy,” says Beth Bongar (aka Laughing Diva), a laughter yoga teacher of 10 years. “Remember, it’s not about ‘real’ or ‘spontaneous’ laughter necessarily—although this is likely to happen if you practice laughter yoga, especially when the going gets rough,” she says.

Laughter yoga incorporates yogic breathing—pranayama—to get the body to an aerobic state in order to laugh, whether you feel like it or not. According to Bongar: “If you’re not in the mood, which is not a requirement, think of laughter yoga as physical, mental, and/or spiritual exercises that have benefits backed by science.” Though it’s different than a typical yoga class, some common poses are used, as well as some, perhaps unexpected, mantras. “Ha-ha ho-ho, ho-ho ha-ha is a mantra,” says Bongar.

Laughter Aligns With Our Chakras

The powerful energy of different types of laughter connects with our chakras. Tracee Dunblazier, a certified grief counselor and author, shares her work from Master Your Inner World: Embrace Your Power With Joy. “Energetically, the heart opens or expands when we laugh and allows for all of the other energy centers (chakras) to release denser energies and align with the higher frequencies that enter the body.” There are three different kinds of laughs that interact with their corresponding chakras:

  • The chortle laugh is centered in the head and throat and expands the throat chakra, allowing a better flow of communication.
  • The guffaw laugh is centered in the belly, expands the second and third chakras, and will help you release your fear of not being able to control the situation, allowing you to find an empowering position in it.
  • The chuckle is centered in the heart, the place in the physical body where we create hormones of peace and the energy center where we align with our higher self. The chuckle opens the heart, allowing for a stronger flow of energy to the rest of the system.”

Illustration by Yumi Sakugawa

Illustration by Yumi Sakugawa

The Contagious Power of Laughter

On top of laughter’s effects inside your body, and its use as a great coping mechanism, laughter also serves as a social connector—and a contagious one at that. Research suggests that hearing laughter triggers our brain to automatically prime us to smile or laugh. If you’ve ever smirked while walking by someone letting out a belly laugh, this is why.

“When you look in people’s eyes, it is so easy to laugh, it just activates our inner laughter,” says Bongar. “It’s really great to connect, and that is what makes you laugh, naturally—connection.”

It comes down to a few things: the twinkle or gleeful crease around the eyes, the mirthful smile, a “lit up” face, the radiating energy, and that joyous, distinctive sound of laughter. “You have a visceral reaction to somebody’s laughter,” says Dunblazier.

Part of the contagiousness of laughter is also the “infectious” energy exchange that occurs. “With laughter you take the energy information and you project it outwards so it becomes infectious to others,” says Dunblazier. As the adage goes, out with the old, in with the new. “As you begin to laugh you are letting go of old energy and you are creating a space in your body for new energy to flow through. And you transmit that and it is absolutely an exchange—it’s an exchange of joy.”

So go out and laugh today—it won’t only make you smile, it’ll help your health, refresh your perspective, and, who knows—you might just make a friend.

Author Name

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